Allies of Hillary Clinton want you to know one thing: Anthony Weiner is not her husband.
As Weiner continues his kamikaze campaign for mayor of New York City with the support of his wife, longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, the couple is increasingly becoming a liability for the former Secretary of State and potential 2016 presidential candidate.
“The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging — that Huma is ‘standing by her man’ the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did,’’ one Democrat tells the New York Post. Another says that the Clintons are "distancing themselves" from this "nonsense."
The Clintons, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd writes, "are not happy about getting dragged into the lewd spectacle that is a low-budget movie version of their masterpiece."
At the outset of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton famously attributed the accusations against her husband to a "vast right-wing conspiracy." When her husband confessed to the affair, Hillary Clinton did not join him, and her office told the public she had been "misled." But she was "committed to her marriage," the spokeswoman added, and Clinton traveled with the president to Martha's Vineyard a day later.
Unlike Abedin, Clinton never brought her decision to forgive her husband into a political campaign. In a sense, she was saved from making the exact choice Abedin faced; Bill Clinton never ran for office again.
The distinction may have more to do with political gifts than marital particulars. Despite his high media profile, Weiner is a former House member who was the the lead sponsor of only one bill that actually became law. Clinton was a successful two-term president of the United States, and he went on to be the head of a global philanthropic enterprise.
And all that is far in the past for the Clintons; there has been no subsequent scandal or salacious revelation. The last thing Hillary Clinton wants as she considers a run for president herself is to be pulled into Weiner's sexting drama.
But it might be too late. On Monday, CNN, citing a source close to the former first couple, reported that they are not "livid" with comparisons of Bill Clinton to candidate Weiner, as The New York Post reported, but that they are livid for personal, not political reasons, stemming from their close personal, not political, relationship with Abedin.
One sees how this could get complicated for them.
Weiner's run has been propelled in part by Abedin's connection to the Clintons. Huma has aggressively used her connections to garner support for her husband's bid. “The chatter was, if you wanted to stay in Hillary’s good graces, you answer the call from Huma,” one Clinton intimate told the Washington Post.
In the gauzy New York Times Magazine profile that launched his campaign, Hillary Clinton appears as an instrumental player in their marriage: she encourages their (ultimately disastrous) first date and later gives Weiner an opportunity to show Abedin his better nature.
The connection is real; Bill Clinton officiated the couple's wedding. But the Clintons, through their supporters, quietly made no secret of their disapproval of Weiner running, especially when he dropped the former president’s name without permission early on. Now it’s clearly a political disaster they need to get away from. The question is whether they want or even can take Abedin with them by keeping her in the 2016 orbit, or leave her to burn in the fire she helped start.
Jason Horowitz contributed to this report.